An AT webinar supported by SIG Design & Technology explored the changing nature of hotel design and how this is being influenced by the global pandemic./h3>

Covid-19 has changed peoples’ priorities with regards to work and leisure. Among the industries reacting to the requirements of a post-pandemic world is the hotel sector. Even prior to coronavirus, the serviced apartment and aparthotel sector had experienced the largest year-on-year growth of all UK serviced accommodation. The demand for self-contained, spacious and hygienic accommodation provided by specialist operators will continue to provide tough competition for the homestay market. So how can hotels reinvent their model to cater for new working and meeting practices? How will guest room design change to cater for multiple activities? What role will smart technology play? And how will materials be used to create robust and cleanable surfaces? These questions and more were explored in an Architecture Today webinar, supported by SIG Design & Technology, and chaired by architectural writer and editor Ruth Slavid.


Webinar participants

Ross Finnie
Sales Director, SIG Design & Technology
Dexter Moren
Partner, Dexter Moren Associates
Mark Kelly 
Partner, PLP Architecture


Reception bar at the Holiday Inn London – Camden Lock, designed by Dexter Moren Associates (ph: Andy Stagg)

Local versus location
According to Dexter Moren, the concept of local, local, local – as opposed to the property mantra of location, location, location – is key to the future of hotel design. “Hotels have been reinventing themselves as active neighbourhood participants well before Covid,” said the architect. “Instead of resembling furniture warehouses, hotel lobbies are increasingly being transformed into places that attract guests and local people alike.” The added benefits of hospitality services and facilities, as well as 24-hour operation, can give hotels an edge over traditional establishments, such as cafes and bars.

Work and business opportunities also have an important role to play. “Rather than being a home from home, hotels have the opportunity – through good interior design and viewing vistas – to provide a sea change for traditional homeworking,” said Moren. Similarly, companies may favour hiring hotel meeting rooms over their own corporate equivalents, if there is significant emphasis on design and ambiance.


Business hub at the Holiday Inn London – Camden Lock, designed by Dexter Moren Associates (ph: Andy Stagg)

Getting Smarter
Smart technology is further reshaping the way in which we use hotels – from remote food and beverage ordering to booking in and sanitary bedroom design. “Technology amounts to a touchless interface, which is part of social distancing,” said Moren. The practice recently designed an illuminated room number fitting that acts as a wayfinding device, provides corridor lighting, and serves as a discreet, plastic-free hand sanitising device.


Visualisation showing conversion of stables into private dining spaces at a former police station, designed by Dexter Moren Associates

Moren envisaged that bedroom design would change radically in coming years, with spaces becoming increasingly multi-functional in order to satisfy demands for exercise, work and meetings. Post-Covid, the architect felt that material selection – relating specifically viral surface retention qualities – as well as biophilic design, i.e., using plants to purify the air, were likely to become more important for architects and their hotel clients. Moren also touched on ‘duct tape versus design’ – namely the necessity to create spaces that can facilitate social distancing without resorting to markings on the floor and other crude devices.


Pan Pacific London Hotel pool and spa at One Bishopsgate Plaza in the City of London, designed by PLP Architecture

Mark Kelly explored how hotels can adapt to the societal changes brought about by Covid, and what the benefits could be for guests, hoteliers and local communities. With a predicted decline in business travel and a rise in tourism and local trade, Kelly said that post-Covid hotel users would be looking for safe and secure environments, luxury and hospitality experiences, as well as a wide range of amenities in one location. “Hotels may need to hybridise in order to offer a greater mix of facilities, including business support and leisure activities,” explained the architect. “The spread and proportion of amenities to room numbers will need to increase, as will the space for circulation routes.”

Safety first
In common with Moren, Kelly believes that technology and hygiene have important roles to play in creating safe and therefore attractive environments for hotel guests. Among the benefits offered by new technology are density and opt-in temperature monitoring, self-cleaning surfaces, and independent air conditioning systems for bedrooms and other areas. With regards to cleanliness, Kelly said, “Hotels are uniquely placed to create a sense of security around hygiene conditions through rigorous cleaning regimes. In some cases, hotels are partnering with medical organisations to offer hygiene excellence standards.”


Pan Pacific London Hotel dining room at One Bishopsgate Plaza in the City of London, designed by PLP Architecture

Adapting to change
The architect also outlined how key elements of hotel design will need to adapt to changing user needs. Bedrooms, for example will require greater spatial flexibility so that they can accommodate both extended and shortened periods of stay, as well as work and exercise facilities. Event spaces will also need to be more flexible with a greater reliance on partitioning systems and circulation control. Private dining spaces are likely to become more important, as will the ability to utilise both internal and external eating and drinking areas. Vertical and horizontal greening will also play an important role in terms of air quality and creating a sense of wellness.


Green roofs can provide functional and aesthetic benefits for hotel projects (ph: Adam Coupe Photography)

Making roofs work harder
Ross Finnie’s presentation focused on maximising hotel roof designs while minimising risk. He explored how different types of roof, including blue and green systems, can provide additional space for terraces or sky lounges, while also satisfying functional needs, such as SuDS, thermal mass and biodiversity.

With regards to choosing a waterproofing system Finnie said, “Specifying the right product with the right installation contractor, who can work hand-in-hand with the roof designer and manufacturer is critical. SIG Design & Technology’s product agnostic approach to roof design and specification is based on its ability to supply a wide range of systems from single ply membranes and liquid waterproofing to natural slate, copper and zinc. This means that it can recommend the right product for the job.”


Detail section through blue roof (drawing: Eco Green Roofs)

Covering all the bases
Following on from waterproofing choice, Finnie examined key areas that architects should consider when developing roof specifications. Drawing on SIG’s Eight Steps to the Perfect Roof guidance document, he covered design and manufacturer expertise, regulatory compliance, supply chain confidence, approved contractors, installation monitoring, guarantees and planned maintenance. Finnie strongly advocated the use of a one system guarantee from a single manufacturer for both specifier and client peace of mind. Last but not least he recommended SIG’s Flat Roof Checklist as a go-to resource for ensuring that all aspects of design and specification are covered by specialist suppliers.

Blue roof under construction at Premier Inn Milton Keynes (ph: Eco Green Roofs)

Overall, the presentations showed that the hotel sector is experiencing significant change, not only in response to the global pandemic, but also due to ongoing social and economic factors. Encouragingly however, the industry seems poised to capitalise on the opportunities and possibilities this presents, resulting in benefits that extend beyond hotel guests to local communities and the wider built environment.